For three straight games the Temple Owls seemed to have lost the mojo that had guided them to a six-game win streak that included an upset over #10 Kansas.
That energy and confidence returned for the Owls Thursday night at the Liacouras Center, as Will Cummings returned to the starting lineup after missing Temple’s blowout loss to Cincinnati and playing sparingly in their two games prior due to a leg injury.
Two of those three losses saw the Owls blow double-digit second half leads, but on Thursday they left no question as to whether they would maintain their lead. With Cummings’ return, the Owls dominated USF from the outset, taking a 19-point lead at the half on their way to a 73-48 win over the Bulls.
While Cummings was still not 100 percent, and admitted so following the game, he looked better than he had since the initial injury, coming up with an early steal and running the floor for a layup and the foul to put Temple up 8-4.
After Temple extended their lead to 10-4, USF would respond with a 10-0 run to gain the lead, but the Owls would begin to strike from long range, hitting three straight threes to take a 19-14 advantage over the Bulls.
The Owls would continue to heat up from beyond the arc in the first half, making 8-of-14 shots from three point range in the half to boost them to a 39-20 halftime lead.
Jesse Morgan would account for half of those threes, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc to tally 12 points in half.
The Owls would continue to dominate throughout the second half, stretching their lead to as much as 26 on their way to a 73-48 win.
Cummings’ presence would be felt immediately upon his return, as he finished with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I feel pretty good,” Cummings said. “It felt great just to be able to have some explosiveness and come out and play with my teammates and get a good victory.”
More important than his numbers, however, was the presence that Cummings brought back to the Temple lineup.
Cummings provided the leadership the team had been missing in his absence, and added one more player that the opponent needed to account for at all times, allowing other Temple players to get open looks.
“We need his leadership, and he’s still very good on the defensive end,” Dunphy said. “He may not be as explosive on offense as he is when he’s 100 percent healthy, but we really need him on the defensive end and we certainly need his leadership.”
With Cummings there to help spread the floor, Morgan was able to rack up 19 points, while Quenton DeCosey added 14 to help Temple get back on track.
“This was definitely a must-win, coming off three straight losses,” DeCosey said. “We knew we needed to get this one at home. We had given up two games at home, so we had to get one and protect home court.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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